Posts tagged "Sze-To Cheuk-Hon"

Zu: The Warriors from the Magic Mountain

Zu: The Warriors from the Magic Mountain

aka 新蜀山劍俠 aka Xin shu shan jian ke
Zu Warriors From Magic Mountain
1983
Written by Shui Chung-Yuet and Sze-To Cheuk-Hon
Directed by Tsui Hark

Zu Warriors From Magic Mountain
My life having gone through the binge period of renting blurry Hong Kong VHS second generation dubs with hard to read subtitles from locally owned video stores in the 90s, Zu: The Warriors from the Magic Mountain is one of those films that unleashes giant waves of nostalgia. Despite the bad conditions it was being viewed under, the energy and effects magics caused it to rise above the masses. I’ve since seen it on first generation VHS, vcd, and DVD, each time being a fun experience as an idealistic young fighter is caught in the world of wuxia masters, who turn out to have just as many problems as the normal folk (only their problems are a million times more dangerous!) With Tsui Hark’s direction (and choreography work done by Corey Yuen Kwai, Yuen Biao, Fung Hak-On, and Mang Hoi), Zu is visually distinctive. The choreography and effects jumpstarted the look of modern Hong Kong film from the 1980s, while the color and humorous tone helped distinguish it from the Shaw Brothers films that it often shared rental store space with.

The effects look a bit dated now, flying people on obvious wires, old school makeup effects, and cartoon lasers zapping around. But a lot of the practical effects still look nice, and the pulsating monster seems more dangerous as a jiggling puppet than it would as just a bunch of lifeless CGI. The effects were pushed to show that Hong Kong could produce films on par with Star Wars and other early 80s effects-laden films from Hollywood. While I don’t think they quite match the talent, much is accomplished on what is obviously an insanely smaller budget (and Hong Kong effects would develop much further thanks to experience from producing films like this one!)
Zu Warriors From Magic Mountain
Despite the effects, much of the film is character driven. Dik Ming Kei’s endless idealism, Ding Yan’s tough exterior hiding a lonesome and good man, Yat Jan being a royal screw up, and the Ice Queen being the total opposite of her name when it comes to Ding Yan. It’s Moon Lee’s first major role, she would go on to be a major player in the Girls with Guns films of the late 80s/early 90s. Brigitte Lin began her domination as a martial arts queen that would ripen with Swordsman II and The Bride with White Hair.

The energy of Zu: The Warriors from the Magic Mountain is infectious, it covers so much that we’re sprinting from concept to concept. Despite that, the basic story is simple to follow. They even stop to remind everyone that it is just good vs. evil!
Zu Warriors From Magic Mountain

Dik Ming Kei (Yuen Biao) – A former scout turned man fed up with war, who then gets entangled in drama in the martial world. He will become involved on a quest to literally save the planet. Through it all, his optimism and hope for the future becomes almost as powerful a weapon as the martial art skills he learns along the way.
Ding Yan (Adam Cheng Siu-Chow) – Ding Yan of Nam-Hoi, a lone martial fighter who fights against evil and lives a solitary life. Ding Yan is proud and stern, but he’s also loyal to his friends.
Yat Jan (Mang Hoi) – The student of Hiu Yu, a goofy klutz who doesn’t feel he is worthy to carry on the legacy of the Kwan-Leung school. Needs a healthy dose of confidence. Wears a turtle shell on his back.
Hiu Yu (Norman Chu Siu-Keung) – Leader of Kwan-Leun school and trains his student, Yat Jan. Is called Heaven’s Blade. Poisoned early in the film, requiring the help of the Ice Queen.
Ice Queen (Brigitte Lin Ching-Hsia) – the Lady lives in her secluded palace and has the power to heal those injured by supernatural means. But it also costs her much energy to heal them, and she usually decides to heal or not to heal based on fate, things ouside her control. Her isolation is argued to cause her to be cold, but she does have humanity in her (as evidenced by her interactions with Ding Yan)
Ice Queen’s Guard (Moon Lee Choi-Fung) – One of the guards of Ice Queen’s palace, she is tricked by Dik Ming Kei and Hiu Yu when they embarass her to try to get past. She gets revenge on them by embarrassing them much more, and is the only member of Ice Queen’s crew to escape her palace. She joins the heroes on their quest as she has nowhere else to go.
Chang Mei (Sammo Hung Kam-Bo) – Founder of Ngo-Mei School and fighter against evil. He holds the big villain at bay for 49 days with only a mirror and his eyebrows, surviving only with the hope the dopey goofs he sent on the quest to save the planet actually get their act together.

Zu Warriors From Magic Mountain
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1 comment - What do you think?
Posted by Tars Tarkas - December 15, 2013 at 6:41 pm

Categories: Good, Movie Reviews   Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

The Sorcerer and the White Snake (Review)

The Sorcerer and the White Snake

aka 白蛇傳說 aka It’s Love aka Bai she chuan shuo aka Madame White Snake

2011
Written by Charcoal Tan, Tsang Kan-Cheung, and Sze-To Cheuk-Hon
Directed by Tony Ching Siu-Tung
Action Directors – Tony Ching Siu-Tung and Wong Ming-Kin

Ice Age 5: Journey to Mt. Doom!

The Sorcerer and the White Snake is a big budget effects bonanza that also doubles as a sleeping aide. Thanks to China attempting to become a major player in the movie department, they’ve begun adopting the worst aspect of Hollywood blockbusters. Giant empty special effects, bland characters, story arcs that go nowhere, and a film made as generic and non-offensive as possible to ensure the widest possible audience. Sadly, that also makes The Sorcerer and the White Snake just like so many of those big budget films in that it is not very good. Now, I can’t fault them entirely for being inspired by generic Hollywood junk, that’s most likely the films that are imported over to China that clean up in the box office. But in the race to show how China can do it too, they failed to realize what China is doing is failing just as bad.

We’ve come to avenge Ting Ting from Thunder of Gigantic Serpent!

When making The Sorcerer and the White Snake, the producers decided the most interesting part about this classic love story was a supporting character who fought spirits. My thinking is they wanted to do a familiar story but also wanted to do a film with huge action sequences. The only feasible way was to graft it onto the classic White Snake story. But it just doesn’t work. The original tale is diluted and weakened, while the Monk’s expanded story receives little payoff. This decision even further boggles the mind because they kept the title It’s Love, which hints that the film should be focused on the couple and not the monk. The biggest sin of all is the action sequences ring hollow and bland. Large portions of what should have made the film great were sacrificed for spectacles that focues on looking good over actual impact. Thousands of people at thousands of computers worked for thousands of hours to make me bored. Many of the huge battles fail to even convey a sense of danger for the combatants, even when the entire ocean is turning into giant tidal waves with giant snakes swimming around, no one seems to be in real danger.

Someone wasn’t paying attention when they read the Book of Genesis!

But are there bright spots? Well, the film certainly looks very nice. Good cinematography. Moments of the action sequences are good, but not enough. This paragraph should be longer, but I really can’t think of anything.

By that time, my mouse lungs were aching for air.

It is legally impossible to talk about The Sorcerer and the White Snake without bringing up the last well known theatrical version of this story, Green Snake. I’m serious. Lawyers will call you and yell. While Tsui Hark’s film is a masterpiece, it is a completely different story (based, in fact, on a separate work, the book Green Snake by Lilian Lee!) Comparing Green Snake to The Sorcerer and the White Snake is like complaining because The Muppets Wizard of Oz isn’t enough like Wicked. They are two different stories with two different tales, with the same narrative starting point. And this post isn’t about Green Snake, it’s about The Sorcerer and the White Snake.

I hate it when I’m in the bamboo forest and a rap video breaks out…

Let’s meet the cast, then I’ll point out some places where the film did okay and where I got annoyed.

Master Fahai (Jet Li Lian-Jie) – The abbot of Jin Shan Temple and famed demon hunter. Very arrogant and strict, though he does try to capture most of the spirits in case they want to meditate for rehabiliation. See more Jet Li in The Forbidden Kingdom.
Susu aka White Snake (Eva Huang Sheng-Yi) – White Snake spirit that is thousands of years old and has the fortune/misfortune to fall in love with a human being. Eva Huang is best known for appearing voicelessly in Kung Fu Hustle, then getting fired from Stephen Chow’s production company, and drama ensuing, then still making it in the cutthroat world of acting/producing.
Qingqing aka Green Snake (Charlene Choi Cheuk-Yin) – The rowdy Green Snake, who is more emotional and joking than her friend White Snake. But she is loyal and will defend her friend to the end. Charlene Choi is also on TarsTarkas.NET in Treasure Inn, Hidden Heroes, Beauty on Duty, and Protege De La Rose Noire.
Monk Nengren (Wen Zhang) – Assistant monk to Master Fahai and he accompanies him on all his adventures. Until he’s bitten by a bat demon and begins turning into a spirit himself. It also looks like the monks don’t have much of a health care plan…
Xu Xian (Raymond Lam Fung) – A young herbalist with big dreams and posessing enough of a cool factor to catch the eye of Susu for some cross-species romance. Turns out he isn’t that upset that his wife is a snake.
So much CGI, the excitemenZZZZZZZZZzzzzzzzzzzzz…..

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4 comments - What do you think?
Posted by Tars Tarkas - July 9, 2012 at 11:59 pm

Categories: Movie Reviews, Ugly   Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , ,

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